This Buddha Bowl recipe features crispy tofu tossed in a sweet, garlicky lemongrass soy sauce for a delicious take on a classic dish. It’s versatile, delicious, healthy, and absolutely packed with flavor in every single bite!
The star of this dish is the crispy garlic tofu, which is then lightly coated in a delicious homemade sweet garlicky sauce that for an incredibly delicious Buddha bowl addition! The crispy exterior gives way to a tender and flavorful interior, making each bite a delightful experience.
Accompanying the tofu are an array of vibrant and fresh vegetables, including crisp red cabbage, crunchy cucumbers, juicy cherry tomatoes, and creamy avocado slices. These ingredients not only add a visually appealing element to the bowl but also provide a variety of textures and flavors that complement the tofu perfectly.
To bring all the components together, this buddha bowl is dressed with a sweet honey lemongrass soy sauce dressing. This dressing adds a delightful umami flavor to the bowl and ties all the elements together for a perfect buddha bowl.
Whether you are a tofu aficionado or simply looking to incorporate more plant-based meals into your diet, this buddha bowl recipe is guaranteed to impress.
Read on to learn exactly how to make this delicious crispy garlic tofu buddha bowl recipe today!
What is a Buddha Bowl?
A Buddha bowl, also known as a grain bowl or hippie bowl, is a wholesome and nourishing meal that typically consists of various nutritious ingredients presented in a single bowl.
It has its origins in the principles of balanced eating and mindfulness practiced by Buddhist monks. The bowl usually includes a base of whole grains or like quinoa, brown rice, or bulgur, providing a source of complex carbohydrates.
To this base, a variety of colorful vegetables, both raw and cooked, are added, offering an wide range of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Plus, a protein component such as tofu, tempeh, or chickpeas is often included which makes the bowl nutritionally complete.
The best part about a Buddha bowl is its versatility! You can easily customize the ingredients to fit your dietary preferences or restrictions. It’s a great, versatile dish that I’m sure you’ll love!
Why You’ll Love This Buddha Bowl Recipe
Versatile: This recipe is perfect for anyone, regardless of dietary restrictions or preferences. With tofu as the main protein source, it caters to vegetarians and vegans, while still offering a delicious meal option for meat-eaters.
Easy: The recipe looks fancy but it’s actually really easy to make! By following my step by step instructions, you’ll be able to make this delicious buddha bowl easily at home even if you’ve never made one before. It’s also perfect for anyone that likes to meal prep.
Delicious: The combination of crispy garlic tofu, fresh vegetables and sauces makes this buddha bowl incredibly delicious. Plus, the crispy tofu serves to provide a satisfying crunch, while garlic adds a delicious flavor and aromatic element to the dish.
Nutritious: This buddha bowl is packed with nutrients, making it a healthy meal option. Tofu is a good source of plant-based protein and contains essential amino acids. Plus, the fresh vegetables provide a range of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
Crowd-pleaser: Whether you’re serving it for a family dinner or hosting a dinner party, this buddha bowl is sure to please a crowd. Its versatile nature allows people with different dietary preferences to enjoy it.
Ingredients You’ll Need to Make Buddha Bowl At Home
All you need are some incredibly simple, pantry-staple ingredients to make this delicious crispy garlic tofu buddha bowl recipe at home.
Here's an overview of the specific ingredients for this recipe. For the exact ingredients and measurements, please scroll to the recipe card below.
- Cooked rice (or quinoa, brown rice): We will need cooked rice to provide a hearty and filling base for the dish. It will also add a nutty flavor and a fluffy texture to complement the other ingredients. I like to use calrose medium grain rice or sushi rice which is Japanese short grain rice.
For the Crispy Tofu:
- Tofu: We’ll need firm tofu. I find firm tofu is easier to work with and holds a crispy texture better will add a satisfying crunch to the dish.
- Potato starch: We will also be using some potato starch to lightly coating each tofu piece before pan frying it. This will give you an extra crispy layer! Alternatively, you can also use cornstarch.
For the Sauce:
- Honey: We will be using honey, which will add a touch of sweetness to the soy sauce marinade. I like to use honey over sugar for the sauce because it gives the sauce a thicker and syrupy consistency. Alternatively, you can also use maple syrup as well.
- Soy sauce: Next, we will add some soy sauce. It will provide a salty and umami flavor to your dish. Using low-sodium soy sauce will allow you to control the saltiness and avoid overpowering the other flavors.
- Garlic cloves: We will also need garlic cloves, which will add a garlicky and aromatic taste to the sauce. Try to use fresh garlic instead of garlic powder.
- Lemongrass: To get a fragrant and light citrusy flavor to the sauce, use fresh lemongrass for this if possible. You can also use the frozen pre-ground lemongrass for this as well. Make sure you chop this finely since lemongrass is very woody and tough to eat in large pieces.
For the Toppings:
- Wakame seaweed salad: This is a completely optional ingredient but has a wonderful sweetness and crunch to it.
- Braised shiitake mushrooms: I use dried shiitake mushrooms for this and soaked them for 1-2 hours in water to reconstitute it. Then I braise it in a sweet soy for 10 minutes and thinly slice it.
- Fresh local produce: Pick and choose your favorite local fresh produces! Some common ones I like to use are cucumbers, cabbage, baby tomatoes and occasionally radishes.
- Pickled onions/radishes/carrots: I usually like one component of the Buddha bowl to be a light pickled vegetable. For something quick, squeeze fresh lime juice over sliced red onions and soak them for an hour. I also have a quick and easy pickled daikon recipe as well which you can easily add carrots to.
- Mango: I like to occasionally use fresh mango as well to give it a sweet element. For a sweeter and softer mango, use Ataulfo mangoes. If you prefer a firmer mango with a bit more tang, then use the large firm red/green mangoes.
For the Garnishes:
- Jazz up your Buddha bowls with additional garnishes such as green onions, roasted seaweed and/or toasted sesame seeds or our homemade furikake recipe!
What's the Difference Between a Poke Bowl and a Buddha Bowl?
Buddha bowls are often plant-based, where the protein also comes from tofu, beans, or tempeh, whereas a poke bowl typically uses bright raw fish as their protein source, such as salmon or ahi-tuna.
Regardless if you are making a poke bowl or a Buddha bowl, you can easily switch out your grains (rice, bulgur, quinoa) and fresh local produce for a bit of variety.
How to Make Buddha Bowl (Step by Step)
Making this incredible crispy garlic tofu buddha bowl recipe at home is super easy and will give you great results every single time. Here's how to make it step by step:
How to Prep Ingredients
- Remove the tofu from its packaging and place it on a plate with a lip to catch any excess water.
- Place a cutting board on top of the tofu and place something heavy, like a bowl, on top of the cutting board to press out the excess water for one hour. Discard the water.
- Cook rice (or quinoa, brown rice) ahead of time and set it aside.
- (Optional, if making pickled red onions) Finely slice a red onion and place it in a bowl. Squeeze the juice of a lime into the bowl with the onions and let it soak for an hour, mixing occasionally.
- (Optional, if braising shiitake mushrooms) Rinse dried shiitake mushrooms and place them in a bowl with hot tap water to soak for one hour.
How to Make the Sauce
- Peel and finely chop the garlic.
- Remove the first layer of the lemongrass and wash off any sand.
- Cut 2 inches from the bottom of the lemongrass and smash it with a rolling pin or the back of a knife to release the oils.
- Finely chop the lemongrass by hand or use a food processor to grind it.
- In a small pot, heat a bit of oil over medium-low heat.
- Add the garlic and lemongrass to the pot and toast until golden brown (approximately 1-2 minutes).
- Once toasted, add the soy sauce and honey to the pot and simmer for 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat and let it cool, as it will become syrupy.
- Taste the sauce and adjust the sweetness by adding 1-2 tablespoons of honey if it is too salty.
How to Braise Shiitake Mushrooms (Optional)
- After soaking the shiitake mushrooms for an hour, squeeze the water out of the shiitake mushrooms and set the water aside in a small pot. If the mushrooms are not soft, flip them in the water and soak them for another 30 minutes.
- Add water, soy sauce, and sugar to the pot and place it over medium-low heat.
- Add the shiitake mushrooms to the pot and braise for 10 minutes, or until they have absorbed most of the liquid.
- Let the braised mushrooms cool, then remove and discard the tough stems before finely slicing them.
How to Prepare the Toppings
- Slice or dice any fresh produce you are using and set it aside.
How to Make the Crispy Tofu
Getting extra crispy tofu is quite easy and can be done in 2 steps.
- Step 1: Remove as much water from the firm tofu as you can. To do this, I like to place my tofu on a plate with a high lip (to catch the water), and then place a cutting board on top of it. Then to weigh it down, I use a heavy bowl or a heavy object. After an hour, you will notice a lot of excess water pressed out of it. Discard the water. If you want to remove even more water, continue the method for another hour.
- Step 2: Lightly coat and rub potato starch (or cornstarch) on the tofu before you pan fry it. You don't need much, just enough to lightly coat it. You need to also make sure there is enough oil in the pan to lightly pan fry the tofu as well. I found that when there is not enough oil in the pan, the direct contact from the frying pans heat will burn the tofu. Make sure not to overcrowd the pan as well, while the tofu is forming the crispy crust, the potato starch can get sticky during the initial frying before it forms the crust.
How to Put it All Together
- In a large bowl, place 1 ½ cups of cooked rice at the bottom.
- In a small bowl, toss a few pieces of tofu with 1 ½ teaspoons of the garlic lemongrass soy sauce to lightly coat them.
- Arrange all the fresh produce, seaweed, pickled onions (optional), shiitake mushrooms (optional), and crispy tofu over the rice.
- Drizzle 1 ½ tablespoons of the garlic lemongrass soy sauce over everything and garnish with green onions and sesame seeds.
- Mix everything together before eating to allow the flavors to combine. Adjust the amount of sauce to your preference. Enjoy!
Your delicious Buddha Bowl is ready to be served!
Joyce's Tips For Making the Best Buddha Bowl Every Single Time
Prep the Tofu Properly: Before cooking the tofu, press it to remove excess moisture. This will help the tofu become crispy when cooked.
Use Low Heat: When cooking the tofu, use low heat to make sure that it becomes crispy on the outside while remaining soft on the inside.
Don’t Overcrowd the Pan: Cook the tofu in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding the pan. This will allow the tofu to cook evenly and become crispy.
Flip the Tofu Carefully: When flipping the tofu, use a spatula to gently turn it over to avoid breaking it. This will help maintain its shape and crispness.
Assemble the Buddha Bowl Just Before Serving: To make sure that the tofu stays crispy, assemble the buddha bowl just before serving. This will prevent the tofu from becoming soggy from the other ingredients.
- Serve the crispy garlic tofu over a bed of fluffy white rice, cauliflower rice, or quinoa for a hearty and satisfying buddha bowl. Top with your favorite vegetables such as steamed broccoli, sliced avocado, and shredded carrots for added freshness and crunch.
- For a lighter option, serve the crispy garlic tofu over a bed of mixed greens or spinach. Drizzle with a tangy vinaigrette or creamy tahini dressing for a delicious and nutritious salad.
- Create a colorful and vibrant buddha bowl by arranging the crispy garlic tofu alongside a variety of roasted vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, bell peppers, and brussels sprouts. Add a dollop of hummus, peanut sauce, or a sprinkle of feta cheese for extra flavor.
- For a fusion twist, serve the crispy garlic tofu in a warm tortilla alongside crunchy slaw and spicy mayo. This Asian-inspired taco is perfect for a quick and delicious weeknight dinner.
- Get creative and use the crispy garlic tofu as a protein-packed topping for a hearty grain bowl. Layer cooked quinoa or brown rice with sautéed kale, roasted butternut squash, and a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds for a nourishing and delicious meal.
Recipe Variation Ideas for Buddha Bowl
This delicious crispy garlic tofu buddha bowl recipe is so flavorful and easy to make, you'll want to try out some of these delicious variations! Here are some great ideas:
Asian-inspired: Add a variety of Asian veggies such as bok choy, snow peas, and shiitake mushrooms to the bowl. Top it off with a drizzle of sesame oil and a sprinkle of sesame seeds for an extra flavor.
Mediterranean: Swap out the tofu for grilled halloumi cheese and add roasted red peppers, kalamata olives, beets, and cherry tomatoes to the bowl. Finish it off with tzatziki sauce or tahini sauce and a sprinkle of fresh dill, mint, or parsley for a delightful twist.
Mexican: Replace the tofu with grilled or roasted chicken and add black beans, corn, diced avocado, and cherry tomatoes to the bowl. Serve it with a squeeze of lime juice and a sprinkle of cilantro and you can also add a little chili powder to make it spicier.
Greek: Use grilled or roasted chicken as protein and add cucumber, cherry tomatoes, red onion, and feta cheese to the bowl. Drizzle it with a homemade Greek dressing made with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and oregano for a refreshing twist to the recipe.
Nuts and seeds: Regardless of the flavor profile you choose, you can top off your buddha bowl with some nuts and/or seeds such as peanuts, walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds.
Protein: You can even switch up the protein! Try edamame, black beans (or any other beans), lentils, or top your grain bowls with some crispy tempeh. For extra crunch, you can even opt for some roasted chickpeas.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, you can use a different protein such as tempeh, seitan, or even chicken or shrimp if you prefer. Adjust the cooking time accordingly depending on the protein you choose.
Yes, you can make this recipe gluten-free by using gluten-free soy sauce or tamari instead of regular soy sauce. Also, make sure to check the labels of other ingredients such as potato starch to ensure they are gluten-free.
Absolutely! Feel free to customize the vegetables in the Buddha bowl to your liking. You can add or substitute any vegetables such as broccoli, bell peppers, carrots, or edamame. Just make sure to adjust the cooking time for each vegetable accordingly.
How to Store Leftover Buddha Bowl
To store leftovers of this buddha bowl, it is best to refrigerate them in an airtight container. Make sure to label the container with the date to keep track of its freshness.
When reheating the tofu and rice, simply remove the desired portion from the container and heat it in the microwave or on the stovetop until it is heated through. The tofu may lose some of its crispiness when reheated, but the flavors should still be delicious.
Let the tofu and rice cool to room temperature, before serving it with the fresh vegetables.
Unfortunately, this dish is not suitable for freezing as tofu tends to become spongy and lose its texture when frozen and thawed.
More Salad Recipes You May Like
- Japanese Kani Salad (Japanese Crab Salad)
- Curtido (Salvadoran Pickled Cabbage Slaw)
- Lao Crispy Rice Salad (Nam Khao)
- Watermelon Feta Salad
- Yum Woon Sen (Thai Glass Noodle Salad)
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Crispy Garlic Tofu Buddha Bowl
Joyce's Recipe Notes
- For this buddha bowl recipe, use firm tofu. 1 hour (or a day) before you plan to use it, remove it from the packaging and place it on a large plate with a lip on it. Put a small cutting board with a heavy bowl on top of the cutting board or a heavy plate on top of it and put it back in the fridge. This will press out excess water in the tofu. Drain the water from the plate a few times.
- Use fresh lemongrass for this if possible. You can also use the frozen pre-ground lemongrass for this as well. Make sure you chop this really finely since lemongrass is very woody and is not pleasant to eat in large pieces.
- 1 ½ cup of cooked rice per bowl (or quinoa, brown rice)
Crispy Tofu (Makes 4 Servings)
- 454 g firm tofu
- potato starch or cornstarch (enough to lightly rub onto each tofu piece before pan-frying)
Honey Garlic Lemongrass Soy Sauce
Braised Shiitake Mushrooms (Optional)
Pickled Red Onions (Optional)
- ½ small red onion (sliced)
- 1 lime
Toppings (Mix & Match)
- ½ cup red cabbage (thinly sliced, per bowl)
- ¼ cup wakame seaweed salad (per bowl)
- 1-2 radishes (thinly sliced, per bowl)
- ¼ cup cherry tomatoes (cut in halves, per bowl)
- ¼ cup cucumbers (sliced or chopped, per bowl)
- ¼ cup mango (sliced or chopped, per bowl)
- ½ avocado (sliced or chopped, per bowl)
Garnishes (Mix & Match)
- black sesame seeds
- crispy onions
- green onions (finely chopped)
- Remove the tofu from the packaging and place in on a plate with a lip on it (so it can catch the excess water).
- Place a cutting board on top of the tofu and place something heavy like a bowl on top of the cutting board for an hour. Store it in the fridge. This will press out any excess water. Discard the water.
- Make rice (or quinoa, brown rice) ahead of time and set aside
- (Optional, if you are making pickled red onions) Finely slice a red onion and place it into a bowl. Cut a lime in half and squeeze the juice into the bowl with the onions and let it soak for an hour. Mix it around occasionally so that lime juice is distributed to all the onion slices.
- (Optional, if braising shiitake mushrooms) Rinse dried shiitake mushrooms and place them in a bowl with hot tap water to soak for one hour.
Making the Honey Garlic Lemongrass Soy Sauce
- Peel and finely chop the garlic and set aside
- Remove the first layer of the lemongrass and wash the sand off the lemongrass.
- Cut 2 inches from the bottom and smash the lemongrass with a rolling pin or the back of the knife to release the oils.
- Finely chop the lemongrass by hand or use a food process to grind it. It is important that it is very finely chopped, since lemongrass is very woody and tough to eat in large chunks
- In a small pot, add a bit of oil and set the heat to medium-low heat.
- Add in the garlic and lemongrass and toast it until it is golden brown (approx. 1-2 minutes)
- Once the garlic and lemongrass has been toasted, add in ¼ cup soy sauce and ¼ cup + 2 tablespoon honey, and let it simmer for 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat and set it aside to cool, it will turn syrupy once it has cooled.
- Do a taste test. If it is too salty, mix 1-2 tablespoons of honey into it and adjust it to the right amount of sweetness for you.
Braising Shiitake Mushrooms (Optional)
- Once the shiitake mushrooms have absorbed the water, it should be soft and pliable. If they are not soft yet, flip them and soak them for another 30 minutes.
- Squeeze the water out of the mushrooms and place the water in a small pot.
- In a small pot, add in ½ cup water, 1 tablespoon soy sauce and 1 tablespoon sugar, and set the heat to medium-low heat.
- Add the shiitake mushrooms in and braise it for 10 minutes or until the mushrooms have absorbed most of the liquid
- Set the braised mushrooms aside to cool.
- Once it has cooled, cut and remove the tough stem and discard it. Finely slice the mushrooms and set them aside.
Preparing the Toppings
- Depending on what fresh produce you are using, slice or dice the ingredients you are using and set it aside.
Making the Crispy Tofu
- Cut the tofu into 1-inch cubes or triangles.
- Sprinkle potato starch over each piece and gently rub each flat surface with it, until each piece is finely coated with the potato starch.
- Add oil to a frying pan and set the heat to low heat. Make sure there is enough oil to coat the bottom of the frying pan.
- When the oil is hot, add the tofu in - being careful to keep them apart and not overcrowd it so they don't stick together.
- Pan fry each surface of the tofu until it is golden brown and crispy. Remove it and set it aside once it is done.
Putting It Together
- In a large bowl, place 1 ½ cups of cooked rice at the bottom of the bowl.
- In a small bowl, toss a few pieces of tofu with 1 ½ teaspoons of garlic lemongrass soy to lightly coat it.
- Arrange all the fresh produce, seaweed, pickled onions (optional), shiitake mushroom (optional) and crispy tofu over the rice.
- Drizzle 1 ½ tablespoons of garlic lemongrass soy over everything and garnish with green onions and sesame seeds and enjoy!
- Best eaten with everything mixed together so the flavors all mingle together! Do a taste test, if you like your food a bit saucier, add a bit more sauce to your preference!
*Nutritional information is calculated using online tools and is an estimate*
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